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Packing on the Pounds: The Black Bear Eating Frenzy for Winter Begins Now

The Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife is urging people in the state and around the country to become more bear aware. Black bears are starting their preparation for winter. That means the animal will spend up to 20 hours a day searching and eating as much food as possible.

The process is called hyperphagia, and essentially the bears can’t stop eating as they prepare for hibernation. A press release from Colorado Parks & Wildlife explained the human equivalent of how much food the animal needs to eat in a single day. It includes “twenty chicken sandwiches, 10 large orders of french fries, 10 soft drinks and 10 milkshakes is the approximate fast food order needed to total 20,000 calories.”

Not only is it a tall food order, but it often leads bears into trouble. A bear’s diet should include berries, fruits, nuts and natural foods. However, extreme hunger often drives them to search people’s trashcans, cars and even homes. 

In 2022, half of all black bear incidents in Colorado occurred in August, September and October, when they’re constantly looking for food. 

“Research shows that bears prefer natural sources of food. But they will seek out sources of human-provided food if it’s available, which can become dangerous to humans,” CPW Northwest Region Senior Wildlife Biologist Brad Banulis said in the press release. “Preventing bears from relying on human food sources takes a community effort, and it’s important that we all take proactive steps to limit human food sources in order to avoid any possible conflicts with bears and bear-proof our homes.” 

Here are some tips for anyone camping or traveling in the coming months in black bear country:
  • Lock your doors when you’re away from home and at night.
  • Keep the bottom floor windows of your house closed when you’re not at home.
  • Do not keep food in your vehicle; roll up windows and lock the doors of your cars.
  • When car-camping, secure all food and coolers in a locked car.
  • Keep a clean camp, whether in a campground or the backcountry.
  • When camping in the backcountry, hang food 100 feet or more from the campsite; don’t bring any food into your tent.
  • Cook food well away from your tent; wash dishes thoroughly.

While black bears are generally more docile than their grizzly bear cousins, it’s good to keep bear safety tips in mind.

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